A Typical Clean Energy Boondoggle

Master Resource looks at the California Valley Solar Ranch

In a realistic appraisal of the CVSR we should note the following:

· An investment of $1.6 billion 250 MW breaks down to an extravagant $6,400,000 per megawatt.

· The Solar Ranch covers 1,500 acres.

· The CVSR is projected to produce 482,000 MWh per year, implying an operating capacity factor of around 22%.

· Given a reasonable appraisal of the value of 482,000 MWh per year, it is not possible that the solar panels will be able to provide a return sufficient to pay back the $1.6 billion investment within their functional life (not even close), even when ignoring annual operating and maintenance costs. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be lost (see Updated CSVR Cash Flow).

....

A much more viable alternative to a solar generation facility, although not the only one, is a plant using natural gas. A natural gas combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) facility capable of 250 MW would have required less than one-fourth the capital investment, would be capable of making four times the electricity per year at 88% capacity factor, and would fit on a single acre.

Also, a CCGT facility could have been located closer to the point(s) of actual use of the electricity, and could provide dispatchable energy which could be increased or decreased as demand fluctuates; something the solar facility is incapable of providing.

So why is this project even happening?  Because most of the project was funded by a taxpayer-gauranteed loan.  And then many of the players got direct subsidies and tax breaks.  And finally the electricity from the project gets bought at an above-market subsidized rate.

 

  • Sam L.

    Cronies, and graft, go together.

  • kppnn10017

    The idea that a 250MW CCGT can fit on a single acre seems either very generous or very selective. I think 10 acres is a more realistic estimate. The point still holds that it will take significantly less land than a solar farm, but I wish Master Resource was able to provide a more realistic comparison.

    For example, here's a plan for a slightly larger 255MW CCGT that was wedged onto 4.4 acres while sharing some existing facilities, such as the switchyard, with an existing plant next door. [http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/lodi/documents/applicant/afc/Volume_I/LEC_2.0_Project_Description.pdf]

  • nehemiah

    It is expensive, so what. This is GREEN energy, the Holy Grail. What is our money to these people?

  • Philip Ngai

    Los Esteros Critical Energy Center has a capacity of 309 MW on 18 acres. It is powered with four General Electric LM6000 gas fired turbines.
    http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/losesteros/

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    Money is green, too.

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    It is guaranteed to fail, because Elon Musk isn’t involved.

  • Gil

    And solar panel hurts wildlife as per turbines because their flat shiny surfaces mean birds and bats mistake them for water sources and fly into them and die

  • perlhaqr

    Yeah. Unless they have an actual set of plans for a 1ac 250MW CCGT, they'd be way better off citing, as you say, "10ac", which is still a fuck of a lot better than "1500ac".

  • marque2
  • Jerry Graf

    I am the author of the article, and I agree that I was overly optimistic regarding the 1 acre assertion (relying too much on memory), and that 10 acres is more realistic. Since this was pointed out I researched this in a bit more detail and provided a Clarification and Correction on my website where the post originated.

    http://jerrygraf.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/california-valley-solar-ranch-update/

    Thank you for reading

  • Doug

    I agree that it doesn't pencil out. SunPower and NRG (the builder and owner, respectively) received grants from the DOE (taxpayer $) which don't have to be re-paid. I worked there this summer, contracted to SunPower, in a project planning capacity. The incentives for building these plants are going to be timed out in a couple of years, thank goodness.